A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
Volume 1
Chicago, Illinois
The Pioneer Publishing Company



Emmet and Dickinson Counties are situated in the northern tier of Iowa counties. They are about midway between the forty-third and forty-fourth parallels of north latitude, and the ninety-fifth meridian of longitude west of Greenwich passes through the latter county, about five miles west of the line dividing it from Emmet. Between Dickinson County and the western boundary of the state lie the counties of Osceola and Lyon.

The County of Emmet is bounded on the north by the State of Minnesota; on the east by Kossuth County; on the south by Palo Alto County, and on the west by the County of Dickinson. It includes congressional townships 98, 99 and 100 north, of ranges 31, 32, 33 and 34 west. The townships along the northern border are fractional, so that the extent from north to south is only seventeen miles. From east to west it is twenty-four miles, and the total area of the county is 408 square miles.

Dickinson County is the same size as Emmet. It is composed of congressional townships 98, 99 and 100 north, of ranges 35, 36, 37 and 38 west. About one-twelfth of the area of this county is covered with lakes. On the north it is bounded by the State of Minnesota; on the east by Emmet County; on the south by Clay County, and on the west by the County of Osceola.



In a general classification, this portion of Iowa would be set down as undulating or rolling prairie, though in places there are high and precipitous hills, such as are seen along the west fork of the Des Moines River in Emmet County. Dickinson County occupies the most elevated position of any, county in the state, being situated on the water-shed that divides the Mississippi and Missouri river systems. Concerning the hills of Emmet County, Thomas H. MacBride, in his report of a geological survey, published in 1905, says they "are characteristic and best displayed west of the Des Moines, yet they are by no means lacking in other places. They are prominent north of Estherville, about Dlliver, and extending in broken series in a southeasterly direction past Armstrong. They were piled up and abandoned here by an agency of which they are at once result and evidence; an agency in the ages past, efficient over wide areas, determining the shape and features of the land surface of a considerable portion of the northern world ‐ the agency of glacial ice. Erosion affects these hills, no doubt, today as it has for centuries, but it did not make them."

The same authority says of the more level portions of this region: "These are conspicuously two-fold in their origin and position. We have, in the first place, the level of the general prairie, a grass grown level, almost without drainage or slope in any direction. Where the lands are better drained the fields are yet flat, the streams long, crooked and shallow, sluggish and easily overflowed. Such a level as this is known everywhere as a Wisconsin drift plain.

"But the river valley proper shows us a plain topography of yet a different character. On either side of the river, now chiefly on this side, now on that, is a peculiar gravel plain, abutting plump against the hills where these approach; distinct at once in structure as in position. This is no alluvial plain in the ordinary acceptance of the word, as might be at first surmised. Indeed, here is no alluvium at all resultant from the action of the present stream. Here is a plain, generally more than a mile in width, sometimes two or three, composed entirely, except for a little organic matter at the top, of coarse, water-laid sand, boulders and gravels fifteen or twenty feet in depth, resting often on blue clay. If we study the course of the present stream we shall discover that it has indeed its own alluvium, its own alluvial plain, its flood plain at high water, enriched by falling silt, but this is an entirely different matter. Over the gravel plain the river never, in its highest waters, sweeps at all; it never reaches to that lofty level. Yet, as just stated, here are water-laid sands and gravels of wide extent. These valley plains are


not the alluvium of our present stream. They are hardly to be reckoned the alluvium of any stream. They are rather the bottom of an ancient river that came down the valley, occupying its total width in its sweeping flood, when the whole country, new-born, was taking shape as we see it now."

The city of Estherville and the town of Wallingford are located on this old river bottom or gravel plain. The alluvial plain of the present Des Moines River, spoken of by Mr. MacBride, begins at Estherville and follows the course of the river to the southern boundary of the county. It varies in width from less than a half mile at the north to nearly two miles near the southern border of High Lake Township.

Mr. MacBride made a survey of Dickinson County about three years before his visit to Emmet. In describing the hills of that county he uses language that is somewhat poetical. Says he: "The hills about Diamond Lake, those northwest of Silver Lake, those of Fairview Township in Osceola County, simply defy classification or description; they pitch toward every point of the compass, they are of every height and shape, they rise by gradual ascent and fall off by precipices so steep that the most venturesome animal would scarcely attempt the descent; they enclose anon high tablelands, anon wide low valleys that open nowhere; they carry lakes on their summits and undrained marshes at their feet; their gentler slopes are beautiful prairies easily amenable to the plough, their crowns often beds of gravel capped with bowlders and reefs of driven sand."

In various places on the hillsides of this county, especially by the margins of the larger streams, there are gravel deposits greatly unlike the ordinary gravel beds of Northern Iowa. Now and then these deposits widen out into plains of considerable size. The most notable formation of this character is seen directly south and west of the town of Milford, in Okoboji Township. It is sandy, gravelly prairie, two or three miles in width, following the general course of the Little Sioux River and extending to the southern boundary of the county. About two miles southwest of Milford, after the Little Sioux River enters the plain, the erosion has left on the west side of the valley a peculiar terrace, which is easily traced to the middle of Section 22. It has been given the name of "Milford Terrace." Farther down, in Section 33, the bluffs of the drift approach much nearer to each other ‐ not more than half a mile apart ‐ and here the terrace may be seen on the west side of the stream as a "narrow shelf, lifted at least fifty feet above the level of the present river." Similar terraces, though not so well defined, are to be seen at other places along the streams.

The irregular topography of these two counties has a tendency to render the streams more than usually tortuous. This is especially


true of the eastern part of Emmet County and the western and southern parts of Dickinson, as may be seen in the windings of the east fork of the Des Moines River in the former and the Little Sioux River in the latter.


In Emmet County the principal stream is the Des Moines River, which enters the county from Minnesota near the northwest comer and flows in a southeasterly direction through the townships of Emmet, Estherville, Center and High Lake, crossing the southern boundary near the southeast corner of Section 33, Township 98, Range 33. Its principal tributary is Brown Creek, one branch of which rises near the village of Huntington and the other in Grass Lake, in the northern part of Ellsworth Township. The east fork of the Des Moines has its source in Okamanpadu or Tuttle Lake, in the northeast comer of Lincoln Township. From the lake its course is generally southward for about four miles, when it turns toward the southeast through Armstrong Grove Township and enters Kossuth County near the north line of Denmark Township. Its principal tributary is Soldier Creek, which rises in the northeast corner of Ellsworth Township, passes through Birge Lake and empties into the east fork of the Des Moines in Section 1, Swan Lake Township.

The Sioux Indians called the Des Moines the In-yan-sha-sha-wapa-ta, which means "the Redstone River," and the east fork they called In-yan- sha-sha-watpa-sun-kaku, "brother of the Redstone River."

The Black Cat Creek, another tributary of the east fork, rises northwest of the center of Denmark Township, where it is formed by the junction of several small streams, and flows in a southeasterly direction, crossing the eastern boundary of the county about a mile and a half north of the southeast comer.

Dickinson County's principal watercourse is the Little Sioux River, which is composed of two branches ‐ the east and west forks ‐ both of these rise in the marshes of Jackson County, Minnesota. The east fork, which is the main stream, flows in a southwesterly course through Diamond Lake Township. The west fork winds along near the eastern border of Silver Lake Township and receives the waters of Dug-out Creek, which is the outlet of Silver Lake. The two forks unite near the southeast corner of Section 6 in Lakeville Township. From that point the Little Sioux's course is generally southward through the townships of Lakeville and Okoboji until it enters Clay County, near the southeast corner of Section 32, Township 98, Range 37.

Stony Creek has its source in Stony Lake, a little southwest of the center of Excelsior Township. Its course is southward through


Excelsior and Westport Townships until it crosses the southern border of the county near the middle of Section 34 in the latter township. There are a few minor creeks, but the above are the only watercourses of consequence in the two counties.


Both Emmet and Dickinson Counties are well supplied with lakes. The largest lake in Emmet County is Okamanpadu or Tuttle Lake in the northeastern part of Lincoln Township and extending northward into Minnesota. Its total area is about four square miles. Originally the shores were covered with native timber, but much of this has been cut off to supply the settlers with lumber and fuel.

Iowa Lake, which gives name to the northeastern township of the county, is situated on the line between Iowa and Minnesota at the extreme northeastern comer of Emmet County. In Iowa it covers not more than one square mile, but it has been described as "an attractive and permanent body of water."

On the line between Lincoln and Ellsworth Townships is Birge (also called Tremont) Lake, which is the source of one of the tributaries of the east fork of the Des Moines River. About four miles due west of Birge Lake, in Ellsworth Township, is Grass Lake, which is drained by one branch of Brown Creek. Both are small lakes, less than one square mile in area.

The largest lake lying wholly, within Emmet County is Swan Lake, which is located a little south of the geographical center of the county in the townships of Center and Swan Lake, which is thus described by Mr. MacBride: "Lake and swamps together. Swan Lake affects half a dozen sections and extends more than six miles from east to west. However, the east end is but a wide marsh full of rushes and all aquatic vegetation. Swan Lake proper is at all seasons a fine sheet of water surrounded by good banks, some of them high and generally covered with native woods; trees of the finest varieties; beautiful primeval walnuts still standing. The depth this year (1903) is reported fifteen to twenty feet. Singularly enough, the locality is comparatively high. From the west end of the lake the view extends for miles in every direction; the wooded, high, western banks of the West Des Moines River stand like a wall of green. The village of Raleigh appears beyond, while on this side Graettinger, Wallingford, Graver, Dolliver, and even the groves of Estherville are plainly visible."

West of Swan Lake, in the southern part of Center Township, is Ryan Lake, while almost due south, in High Lake Township, are High and Mud Lakes, and in Sections 18 and 19 of Jack Creek Township is


a small body of water called Crane Lake. Eagle Lake, in Sections 11 and 14 of Emmet Township, near the northern boundary of the county, completes the list of lakes east of the main branch of the Des Moines River. West of the Des Moines are Four-mile Lake and Cheever Lake in Estherville Township, and Twelve-mile Lake, which gives name to the southwestern township of the county.

Dickinson County can boast of having the largest lake in Iowa. It was known to the Indians as Min-ne-wau-kon, or "Spirit Water," and was supposed to be the home of evil spirits or demons. In English it is known as Spirit Lake. Not only is it the largest lake in the state, but it is also one of the most historic on account of the massacre of settlers in its vicinity by the Indians in the early spring of 1857, an account of which is given in another chapter. Spirit Lake is more than four miles in length and has an area of about ten square miles. It occupies the greater part of the township of the same name. Its greatest depth is about thirty feet. The shores are for the most part low and sandy at the water line, affording a beautiful beach, while farther back is a fringe of trees.

South of Spirit Lake lies East Okoboji, which the first white explorers reckoned part of Spirit Lake, and it is so shown on the early maps of this region. It is nearly six miles in length, beginning within a quarter of a mile of Spirit Lake and extending south and west to Section 20 in Center Grove Township. Near Arnold's Park it is joined by a narrow strait to West Okoboji Lake, which occupies practically all the eastern tier of sections in Lakeville Township. It is nearly six miles long and its greatest width is almost three miles, but owing to its irregular outline the area is not more than seven square miles. Says MacBride:

"The shores of Okoboji are for the most part high walls of bowlder‐ clay and drift. Sandy beaches are less frequent. Everywhere the erosion of the waves has shaped the shores, undermining them and sorting their materials. The fine clays have been carried 'out to sea,' while the weighty bowlder's are left behind every winter to be pushed up closer and closer by the ice, at length piled over one another in ramparts and walls, often riprapping the shore for long distances as if to simulate the work of civilized man. A beautiful illustration of this is along the shore of Lake East Okoboji, Section 20. The less attentive observer would surely conclude that those stones were piled up by 'art and man's device,' a sea-wall to prevent further encroachments of the tide. At the southern end of Okoboji, near Gilley's Beach, is another fine display of bowlders, notable not so much perhaps for their position as for their variety and beauty. Here are bowlders of limestone, bowlders of granite of every sort, porphyry, syenite, trap, greenstone, quartzite, what you will, the debris of all northern ledges. Similar deposits are visible all around


the lake, more especially on the eastern side, probably because the prevailing winds being westerly, the waves have exerted their more constant energy along the eastern bluffs."

Immediately west of Spirit Lake are three small lakes ‐ Marble, Hottes and Little Spirit Lakes ‐ draining one into the other and the waters of all finally reaching Spirit Lake. About three miles farther west is Diamond Lake, which gives name to the township in which it is located, and in the southern part of Silver Lake Township is the lake from which the township derives its name. Its, greatest length, is about two miles and the village of Lake Park, is on its northeastern shore. Directly, south of Silver Lake, about four and a half miles distant in Excelsior Township, is Stony Lake, which is drained by Stony Creek into the Little Sioux River. At the southwest, corner of Lakeville Township is a group of three lakes ‐ Sylvan, Pratt and Pillsbury ‐Sylvan Lake extends for a short distance into Excelsior Township and the greater part of Pillsbury Lake is in the Township of Okoboji. Center Lake is situated in the northwestern part of Center Grove Township, Swan Lake is in Superior Township, about two miles from the eastern boundary, and there are two small lakes in the western part of Richland Township.


The absence of timber throughout Northwestern Iowa has caused considerable speculation among geologists and botanists as to the cause of the vast, treeless plains called prairies, none of which existed east of the State of Ohio. Professor Whitney, who made some early scientific observations in Iowa, says: "The cause of the absence of trees on the prairies is due to the physical character of the soil, and especially its exceeding fineness, which is prejudicial to the growth of anything but a superficial vegetation, the smallness of the particles of the soil being an insuperable barrier to the necessary access of air to the roots of deeply‐ rooted vegetation, such as trees. Wherever in the midst of the extraordinary fine soil of the prairies, coarse and gravelly patches exist, there dense forests occur."

Prof. James Hall, another early Iowa geologist, agrees in the main with Whitney's theory, but not so with Dr. Charles A. White, who was Iowa's state geologist in the early '70s. In one of his reports, after calling attention to the fact that prairies are found resting upon all sorts of bed rock, from the Azoic to the Cretaceous ages, and that all kinds of soil ‐ alluvial, drift and lacrustral, including sand, gravel, clay and loam ‐ are often found upon the same prairie, he says:

"Thus, whatever the origin of the prairies might have been, we have positive assurance that their present existence in Iowa is not due to the


influence of the climate, the character or composition of the soil, nor to the character of any underlying formations. There seems to be no good reason why we should regard the forests as any more natural or normal condition than are the prairies. Indeed, it seems the more natural inference that the occupation of the surface has taken place by dispersion from original centers, and that they encroached upon the unoccupied surface until they were met and checked by the destructive power of fires. The prairies doubtless existed as such ahnost immediately after the close of the glacial epoch."

White's statement that the prairies are not due to the character of the soil is borne out by the fact that shade trees planted along the streets of prairie towns and groves set out about farm houses on the prairie have grown with as much vigor as though the surface had originally been covered with a growth of native timber.


Although America is called the New World, many geologists believe that it is really older than any of the continents of the Eastern Hemisphere. Says Agassiz: "Here was the first dry land lifted out of the waters; here the first shores were washed by the ocean that enveloped all the earth besides; and while Europe was represented only by islands rising here and there above the sea, America already stretched in one unbroken line of land from Nova Scotia to the far West."

It is not within the province of a work of this nature to discuss the methods by which the geologists arrived at this opinion, but other authorities, equally eminent with Agassiz, are inclined to the same view regarding the age of the continent upon which we live. If their hypothesis be true, the region now included in Emmet and Dickinson Counties was probably inhabited by creatures of the reptilian type during the Jura‐ Trias and Cretaceous eras, while the so-called Old World was still underwater.

The first published account of the country about Spirit Lake and along the Upper Des Moines River was that of J. N. Nicollet, who was appointed by the secretary of war in President Van Buren's cabinet to make a map of the hydrographic basin of the Upper Mississippi. His appointment was dated April 7, 1838, and his report was made in the spring of the following year. Subsequently David Dale Owen and Professor Whitney made some observations in Northwestern Iowa, and Dr. Charles A. White gives a brief description of the counties of Emmet and Dickinson, which description is published in Volume II of the Iowa Geological Survey. In 1900 T. H. MacBride made a survey of Dickin-


son County and in 1903 of Emmet. His reports on the two counties are published in Volumes X and XV respectively.

The geologic structure of the two counties, so far as exposed to the ordinary view, is extremely simple. Says MacBride: "The Pleistocene deposits here, as elsewhere in Northern Iowa, consist entirely of sheets of clay, gravel, sand, or of these inextricably mingled together. In fact a pure clay is probably nowhere to be found within our present limits; so that we may say our Quartemary and Pleistocene deposits here are wholly drift, mingled clay and pebbles or bowlders, or beds of gravelly sand."

When Mr. MacBride made his survey of Emmet County, he found the firm of Robinson &asp; Stewart at Armstrong making brick from clay taken from a peaty slough. Concerning the structure of the clay he says: "The clay is reasonably free from the lime pebbles, but still gives so much trouble as to suggest plans for their elimination. This is the only attempt at present in Emmet County toward the prosecution of the clay industry."

As there is no building stone found in either of the counties and the clay is usually of an inferior character for brick making, the chief economic importance of the geologic deposits centers, about the gravel beds, which are found at Estherville, along the Des Moines River both above and below that city, and at various places in the eastern part of the county. From the gravel deposits at the bridge across the Des Moines River in Section 28, Emmet Township, the geologist can gain a fair idea of the immense erosion that took place when the ancient glacial river mentioned in the early part of this chapter swept down what is now the valley of the Des Moines River. Here the gravel on either side of the river is seen fifty or sixty feet above the level of the ordinary plain. The bluffs at this point are a half mile or more apart and between them lies a gravel plain, the bottom of the ancient river.

In the gravel pits operated by the Minnesota &ask; St. Louis Railroad Company, near Estherville, in 1903, MacBride found that "storm‐water erosion has supplemented the artificial excavation to the complete uncovering of the old blue clay. Resting directly upon this bed of blue clay is the same more or less indurated, brownish gravel seen in other excavations, while farther north appears the typical sands and gravels of the Wisconsin age." In Dickinson County the old river terraces and outwashed gravel plains and mounds' furnish in all parts of the county supplies of sand suitable for building purposes, while the gravel, with which the sand is uniformly mixed is ued [sic] in the construction of sidewalks, concrete for foundations, culverts, and in fact in all places where artificial stone is considered a necessity. Foundations here are frequently constructed of


bowlders, which the ingenuity of man has found a way to render tractable, despite their irregular shape. The gravel is. used largely in ballasting railroads and its construction is such that it forms a fine material for the building of highways. MacBride concludes this part of his report as follows:

"Among the several natural economic resources of this region the vast supplies of gravel found, as stated, along all streams and not infrequently remote even from watercourses, seem deserving of special mention. These gravels are today carried by hundreds of car-loads to be used as ballast along the great railway lines of the Northwest. Nor is such material less serviceable in the locality where found. Gravel makes excellent country highways; excellent causeways across marsh and flat, a$ every traveler along the valley of the Des Moines will gratefully testify. The old glacial gravels of Northern Iowa are the sure promise of good public roads."


Frequent mention has been made in this chapter of an ancient glacial river, of glacial sands and bowlders, and it may interest the reader to know something of how these sands and bowlders were deposited. Far back in the geologic past, about the close of the Tertiary era, came the Pleistocene or "Ice Age," during which the entire present State of Iowa was one vast sheet of ice, called a glacier. This sheet of ice extended from the country about the Great Lakes, westward to the Rocky Mountains and southward to the central part of Missouri. It was formed in the northern portion of the continent by successive falls of snow. The weight added by each successive snowfall had a tendency to compress the great mass below into a solid body of ice and in this way was formed a glacier. After many years of this formative process, the entire glacier began to move slowly southward, carrying with it great bowlders, clays, soils, etc., to be deposited upon the bed rocks of a region far distant from the place where they were first laid by Nature's hand. As the huge mass moved slowly along, the bowlders and other hard subtances at the bottom of the glacier left marks or scratches (called strise by geologists) upon the bed rock, and from these scorings the course of the glacier may be determined with a reasonable degree of accuracy. There are no bed rocks exposed in Emmet and Dickinson Counties, but an examination of the strise at other places in Iowa, where the bed rock is exposed, indicates that the course of the great central glacier was in general toward the southeast.

As the glacier moved into a warmer climate the ice began to melt and the materials carried by the glacier were deposited upon the bed


rocks in the form of "drift." At the close, of the ice age or glacial epoch the earth's surface over which the glacier had passed was void of either animal or vegetable life. The action of the rain and winds gradually leveled the surface, the heat, from the sun warmed the earth and life in its most primitive forms made its appearance. How long the great glacier covered what is now the upper Mississippi and Missouri valleys is uncertain. Some geologists estimate the duration of the Ice Age at 500,000 years, and that the last of the glacier disappeared at least one hundred thousand years ago.

Everywhere in this region the soil is the product of rock disintegration. Prof. Samuel Calvin, at one time Iowa's state geologist, in commenting upon the fertility of the soil of the state, says: "And for this rich heritage of soils we are indebted to the great rivers of ice that over‐ flowed Iowa from the north and northwest. The glaciers, in their long journey, ground up the rocks over which they moved, mingled the fresh rock flour from granites of British America and Northern Minnesota with pulverized limestones and shales of more southern latitudes, and used these rich materials in covering up the bald rocks and leveling the irregular surface of preglacial Iowa. The materials thus deposited vary from a few feet to hundreds of feet in depth."

It was by this slow and tedious process that the surface of Iowa was formed. As the glacier moved forward it left at the edge of the ice a ridge called a "lateral moraine." Where two glaciers came together a larger ridge called a "median moraine" was formed, and at the terminus of the ice sheet, where all the residue carried by the glacier was deposited, the ridge thus formed is known as a "terminal moraine." In the western part of Emmet County the geologist can find abundant evidence that the ancient glacial river left here a median moraine, where it came in contact with another glacier that covered the County of Dickinson.

The bowlders commonly called "nigger heads" that are to be seen in nearly all parts of the state, were deposited by the glacier. These bowlders are found in large numbers all over Northwestern Iowa, parti‐ cularly along the Little Sioux River, to which the Sioux Indians gave the name of Ea-ne-ah-wad-e-pon, or "Stone River." In the southern part of Cherokee County is a red granite bowlder 40 feet wide by 60 feet long, and standing twenty feet or more above the surrounding surface. It is called "Pilot Rock," for the reason that it can be seen for a considerable distance and serves as a landmark "to guide the weary traveler on his way."

Naturally, the water from the melting ice of the glacier sought the low places and in this way rivers and creeks were formed. Here and there water settled in a depression, the bottom of which was below the sources of the adjacent streams, and these bodies of water became lakes of


more or less permanency. All the lakes of Emmet and Dickinson Counties are of glacial origin.


At the bottom of the glacial deposits is the till ‐ sometimes called the lower till ‐ composed of a blue clay charged with bowlders, with pockets of sand in places. Next to the till comes the loess, a fine ash‐ colored silt, or a porous clay, rich in the carbonate of lime. Above the loess lies the alluvium or soil, which is composed of the lighter materials carried by the glacier, to which has been added a large volume of decayed vegetable matter that has accumulate since the close of the glacial epoch. As this portion of the drift constitutes the surface and is seen everywhere in Emmet and Dickinson Counties, it is not considered necessary to go into any extended description of its character or composition.

None of the true loess is to be seen in either Emmet or Dickinson County, but it is distributed all over the eastern and southern portions of the state, where it ranges in thickness from two feet to fifteen feet or more. Throughout the two counties under consideration the Wisconsin drift is the common surface formation. It is composed of a pebbly clay, is strongly calcareous, usually of a whitish color when dry, though sometimes yellowish or buff-colored. Reports of well diggers (almost the only source of information and not always to be regarded as accurate) show that the true Wisconsin drift throughout the two counties does not average over fifteen feet in depth. It is generally- covered with a rich, black surface soil and is visible only where uncovered by erosion or exposed by artificial excavation.

In Emmet County the nine eastern townships and a strip along the east side of Emmet and Estherville townships, east of the Des Moines River, this drift is known to geologists as the "Wisconsin Plain." West of the Des Moines the drift is thicker and is morainic in character, affected by knobs and ridges. In Dickinson County nearly all the southern tier of townships, the greater part of Richland, the southeast corner of Superior and a strip on the south side of Excelsior lie in the Wisconsin Plain. The remainder of the county is in the morainic, knobby drift, which extends southward into Milford Township in the form of a triangle. In the "Milford Terrace," previously described, the drift is partially stratified.


In the morainic belt are found a number of fine springs, but by far the greatest part of the water for domestic purposes is taken from wells, a few of which have been sunk to a considerable depth. From the record


or log of these wells some idea of the geological structure of the region has been obtained. The deepest well in Emmet County is one at Ringsted, near the center of Denmark Township, the log of which shows as follows:

(In Feet) Surface drift 12

Blue clay 138

Gray or bluish sand 10

Yellow sand 38

Black and white shale 164

Blue shale 2

Limestone 136

Total depth of well 500

In 1888 an attempt was made to sink an artesian well at Estherville. The drill went down to a depth of over five hundred feet, but no record of the well has been preserved. The log of a well drilled on the farm of a Mr. Lardell and mentioned in MacBride's report shows:

(In Feet.) Soil and drift 20

Blue clay 130

Water-bearing gravel 4

Blue clay 40

Black muck 3

Yellow sand 80

Depth of well 277

In Dickinson County attempts have been made to drill wells through the blue clay in several places near the lakes, but after going from 150 to 300 feet into the clay the operators became discouraged and gave up the effort. Enough of these borings have been made, however, to show that the blue clay underlies the entire county.

The black muck in the Lardell well represents organic matter, plant or animal remains in a state of partial oxidation or decomposition. The decomposing matter sometimes sets free inflammable gases in considerable quantities, and such gases held under the blue clay find vent only as the covering is pierced. What is known as the Burnett well, in Emmet County, near Swan Lake, emitted a strong flow of gas, which was lighted and '"burned for three months," giving rise to the theory that the county was in the "natural gas belt."

More frequently the gases thus liberated are not inflanmiable, being


either common air imprisoned under the blue clay, or they are choke damp or carbonic acid gas. It is said that all the wells in Center Township from Ryan Lake north are "blowing wells" when first the blue clay is penetrated during the drilling process. A well on the farm of George Weir, in Emmet Township, blew for several days after the drill went through the blue clay, throwing good sized pebbles and pieces of wood more than one hundred feet into the air.


As already stated, Dickinson County occupies the most elevated portion of the state. The only official figures relating to the height above sea level that the writer has been able to obtain are those contained in the report of J. N. Nicollet in 1839. He made an observation in latitude 43° 30' 21" north, longitude 95° 6' 30" west, and found the altitude to be 1,310 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. The point where this observation was made is on the north shore of Spirit Lake, near the state line. Railroad surveyors some years ago determined the altitude of Estherville as being 1,298 feet, and Armstrong, 1,237 feet. From these figures the generally level character of the surface may be seen, the north shore of Spirit Lake, the highest known point, being only seventy-three feet higher than Armstrong, which is thirty-two miles farther east.